At Risk

At Risk

Book rating: 03 Paperback Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

By (author) Stella Rimington

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  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 398 pages
  • Dimensions: 97mm x 170mm x 25mm | 23g
  • Publication date: 30 May 2006
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1400079810
  • ISBN 13: 9781400079810
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Sales rank: 13,144

Product description

A terrorist is targeting Britain. And to make matters worse it's an "invisible"--someone traveling under a British passport. Virtually impossible to find before it's too late.The job falls to Liz Carlyle, the most resourceful counter terror agent in British intelligence. Tracking down this invisible is a challenge like none she has faced before. It will require all her hard-won experience, to say nothing of her intelligence and courage. Drawing on her own years as Britain's highest-ranking spy, Stella Rimington gives us a story that is smart, tautly drawn, and suspenseful from first to last.

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Author information

Stella Rimington joined Britain's Security Service (MI5) in 1969. During her nearly thirty-year career she worked in all the main fields of the Service's responsibilities--counter-subversion, counter-espionage, and counter-terrorism--and became successively director of all three branches. Appointed director general of MI5 in 1992, she was the first woman to hold the post and the first director general whose name was publicly announced on appointment. Following her retirement from MI5 in 1996, she became a non-executive director of Marks and Spencer and published her autobiography, Open Secret, in the United Kingdom. She is currently at work on her next novel.

Customer reviews

By Norman Newman 06 Sep 2011 3

"At risk" is the title of the first novel written by Dame Stella Rimington, who received her damehood for running MI5. Not surprisingly, the book (and the following series) is about a female agent in MI5 - virgin territory for me (in terms of fiction, that is). Whilst Rimington is no literary stylist, her prose is far better than I had been led to believe, and reading the novel was an enjoyable experience.

As usual, the first few chapters provide background about several characters who appear later in the book; the story as such gets going at around the seventh or eighth chapter (the chapters themselves are very short). There are a few early chapters which could easily have been cut without causing damage to the story; they don't provide much background information and serve only to distract the reader.

Once the story gets going, it is an exciting read which is more similar to a police procedural than a spy novel. The story is a manhunt after two terrorists, in which protagonist Liz Carlyle provides most of the directions for the hunt. I doubt that in real life MI5 officers become so involved in such matters, and indeed, at a late stage in the story Carlyle feels that her part of the job - the cerebral analysis - is over, even though she eventually produces the final piece in the puzzle, the terrorists' target.

Carlyle does become some kind of 'wonder woman', divining intents correctly with too little input. Nowhere is this more apparent that the final chapter: in the previous scene, Carlyle suffered shell shock when the terrorists are apprehended and is hospitalised. She wakes up the next day with everything very fuzzy, but manages to make a conclusion on very slim evidence. I can't see how she had the time or the mental energy to achieve this, and as a result the book finishes on an unbelievable note.

I enjoyed the book sufficiently to order the next installment. I hope that this is more about her life in the office as an agent-runner/analyst and less about running around in the field.

Review quote

"As engrossing and hard to resist as Fredrick Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal"." --"Orlando Sentinel" "ExcitingE[Rimington] bids to join the ranks of such secret agent-authors as Graham Greene [and] John le Carr?. "At Risk" is an exciting debut novel."--"The Wall Street Journal" "Entertaining. . . . Briskly told. . . . [Will] keep you turning the pages." --"The Washington Post Book World"

Flap copy

An announcement is made at a meeting of the British Intelligence Joint Counter-Terrorist group: "The opposition may be about to deploy an invisible." An "invisible" is CIA-speak for the ultimate intelligence nightmare: a terrorist who is an ethnic native of the target country and who can therefore cross its borders unchecked, move around the country unquestioned, and go unnoticed while setting up the foundation for monstrous harm. Intelligence officer Liz Carlyle has had to prove herself in countless ways as she's come up through the ranks of the traditionally all-male world of Britain's Security Service, MI5. But this announcement marks the start of an operation that will test all her hard-won knowledge and experience-and her intelligence and courage-as nothing has before. Having analyzed information from her agents, she realizes that there is indeed an imminent terrorist threat. She may even have the invisible's point of entry. But what she cannot draw out of all the "chatter" is the invisible's identity and intended target. With each passing hour, the danger increases. As the desperate hunt continues, it becomes clear that Liz's intuitive skills, her ability to get deep inside her enemy's head, are her best hope for tracking down the terrorist. But will that be enough? And can she succeed in time to avert a disaster? Drawing from her experience as the first woman director general of MI5, Stella Rimington gives us a story that is smart, tautly drawn, and suspenseful from first to last. "At Risk is a stunning debut novel that plunges us headlong into today's shadowy and fever-pitched battle between terrorism and Intelligence.